Gym flooring should be at the forefront of your mind when you are thinking of setting up a new, or refurbishing an existing, fitness facility. To help you purchase the most suitable type of flooring, we have set up this gym flooring buying guide.
Far too often, we find that buying gym flooring is left until the very last moment. Fitness flooring is a specialty, like the specification of free weights, cardio or functional zones. It therefore needs to be a part of the early planning of the space.
Plan How You're Going to Use the Space
When you initially create a layout for your facility, give consideration to the space you have or wish to utilise for each zone of the gym. Don't start with choosing equipment, start with the zones or areas you want to include in your gym and the percentage of space you wish to allocate to each zone. Then think about the types of equipment you wish to put into each zone to identify the right flooring solution.
Survey Your Existing Floor
It is important to be aware of the current flooring in the space. You will need to investigate the top layer as well as the flooring construction itself. Is the floor concrete, a raised floor or wooden? Determine whether the floor need to be screed or whether any preparation be required to the underlay in advance of laying a new floor.
Underlay is an insulating barrier installed between the structural flooring and the gym flooring you wish to install.
The type of underlay will completely depend upon the level and intensity of usage within the zone or area of the gym. An underlay may be required in certain zones if the equipment or floor will be at risk of damage. Free weights areas are likely to require an increased level of impact absorption and will therefore need a thicker underlay. In any area where there is a risk of impact to either the floor or equipment, an impact absorption underlay may be required.
Gym Flooring and Equipment Life Cycle
Fitness equipment will often be considered to have a three, five or seven-year life cycle depending upon the usage, brand and specifications. We would recommend giving the life cycle cost of the flooring consideration at the fit-out stage. This means you don't have to replace the flooring in advance of the equipment in the gym, which could cause a great deal of inconvenience.
What Type of Flooring?
The next question you need to ask yourself is; How is the floor going to be installed? There are three main types of gym flooring.
Rubber Floor Tiles
For medium to thicker flooring (anything above 10mm), simple square rubber tiles are the preferred product option. It's important that these are laid professionally as they will often have to be fastened to the floor. The reason for this is that because they are not interlocking, the edges need to be accurately fastened to ensure there are no gaps or imperfections.
Very heavy rubber gym flooring tiles can also be secured using joining plates, but will still need to be laid professionally to secure an even finish.
Rubber flooring rolls are often a cheaper option than tiles and installation is much less labour intensive. Depending on the thickness of the flooring, the rolls are made in varying lengths.
Gym flooring rolls are sometimes preferred because they give a smoother look to the surface of the floor because there are fewer joins. Fewer joins also mean there is less chance of gaps forming or becoming loose through following usage.
Interlocking Floor Tiles
Many gym flooring products use a jigsaw locking system. These should be heavy enough for the installation to be perfectly secure without the use of adhesives. However, the thinner the flooring is, the less secure these connections will be.
Some flooring which can expand and contract in different climatic conditions will require expansion joints which is often something that is overlooked.
We recommend letting any flooring acclimatise in the space for at least 48 hours prior to installation.
Gym Floor Colour and Custom Designs
As well offering a massive range of colour options, some of the industry’s most innovative manufacturers have begun offering fully bespoke options. These can include training aides like boxes, agility ladders and functional zones, but can grow to the size of indoor tracks like the ones we installed for Xercise4Less. There have even been companies developing ranges of flooring which integrated lighting panels to create innovative new workout options.
Make sure to carefully consider the colours of your flooring per zone. Keep in mind the type of activity that will be carried out and how it fits in with the rest of the decor, as well as the cleaning this zone may require.
With manufacturers using differing techniques for dyeing rubber flooring it's not uncommon for some poorer quality rubbers to become discoloured after relatively little use.
Integration, Edging and Cornering
Another aspect to look at is how flooring merges with the rest of the floor around it. This needs to be looked at carefully when carrying out your planning to make sure that there are no trip hazards between two areas of flooring. If corners and edges aren't where the floor meets the wall, then you will need to look at buying extra corner and edge tiles.
As always, premium options and budget options are available. It is important to weigh up quality and cost against each other. Flooring may seem expensive at first glance but when you consider the value of the floor underneath and the equipment it is there to protect, you will realise it is a necessary expense.
It is also critical to not just consider the initial cost of the flooring but the usage of each zone and the lifespan of the flooring. Some flooring may be more expensive but could last twice as long, thus working out as a less expensive option over its lifetime.
The most important consideration for anyone thinking about buying gym flooring is simply; what will each zone of the space be used for? To try and help, we’ve broken the types of gym flooring available down into three categories:
1. Fitness Flooring
Fitness flooring or functional flooring needs to be versatile and high performing. This can often incorporate a functional rig within the space. The flooring required for this will ideally protect the floor below and provide some impact absorption for the equipment and the user. Often, this area will have markings designed and cut into the flooring such as ladders and movement circles. You will always get some people trying to us this as a free weight area by bring over heavier weights. Please note that, if this does happen it will have a detrimental effect on the flooring.
Even in areas where there will be little heavy weights usage, we would still recommend tiles between 6mm and 10mm to protect the floor and equipment from accidental impacts.
One important feature of this type of flooring is that it needs to be moisture resistant. When rubber flooring tiles aren’t adequately water resistant it can lead to an unpleasant and unhygienic environment. There also needs to be a good level of grip so dynamic movements can be performed safely
2. Free Weights Flooring
Specific free weights flooring is essential for any area on which heavyweights are likely to be dropped. Free weight flooring is the thickest we would recommend for home or commercial use and will be at least 20mm thick.
Free weight flooring in gyms for years has been 500cm x 500cm square, dense black tiles. This tile in a 10, 20 or 40mm thickness will realistically only protect the floor below and not the dumbbell or weight plate. There is no impact absorption in this flooring so when a weight hits the floor the impact is not absorbed. The shock goes back into the weight and will over time shorten the life of the weight. We would strongly recommend a flooring solution that also has a involves greater thickness or a design to allow for increased impact absorption.
Free Weight flooring is the most heavy duty of the types of flooring available and will withstand the largest impact and volume of wear. If you are in a residential environment or are surrounded by other, quieter areas of a sports centre or office block, the vibration and clatter of weights hitting the ground will probably be extremely off-putting. Good free weights flooring will minimise vibrations and reduce the noise of impact.
3. Interlocking Gym Flooring
Interlocking gym floor mats are one of the most popular solutions both for home and commercial gyms. They are very easy to lay and offer a simple way to give your space a protective covering. There are interlocking tile options to meet a variety of different needs. Budget options made from EVA foam are an incredibly cheap and effective solution for covering a home gym just used for light weights and cardio training. Rubber interlocking tiles are more expensive, but also a lot more durable than EVA.
4. Sprint Track Turf
A recent but fast-growing flooring option is a Sprint Track Turf, or Astro Grass. This type of flooring allows users to carry out prowler and sled work indoors.
These tracks are created from a hard-wearing plastic, sown in to a mesh to mimic the resistance of grass. This type of flooring is very thin (no more than 10mm) and offers no impact absorption. However, these tracks are available in many colours and are completely customisable with floor markings, making them visually impressive as well as highly versatile.
Other Flooring Solutions
Some places opt to use a hard wearing thin carpet under fixed resistance machines or in other areas. The difficulty you face when using carpeted areas is that they are far harder to clean than solid flooring and can become unpleasant after a while.
Linoleum and real wood flooring are also used in some gyms and sports centres. The downside of using one of these classic types of flooring is that they provide very low impact and noise absorption and also don't provide a particularly good grip.
Most of the treadmills and indoor cycles that we sell are bought along with a mat for underneath. Protective cardio equipment mats are ideal for home equipment that isn't in a permanent position. These PVC mats are about 6mm thick and provide great grip and protection for the flooring underneath your equipment.